Chris Craft Wooden Boat History | Smith Ryan Boat Company |1874 To 1971

January 13, 2013 | By Guest | Filed in: Outdoor Camping.

In a tiny town in Michigan on the St. Clair River, young Christopher Columbus Smith developed his first skiff. This would not be the last boat he crafted. He developed a number of punts or skiffs within the many years to follow. At the age of twenty his reputation as a master boat builder preceded him. He joined with his brother Hank and started building boats full time. With the interest in these hunting skiffs grew, Chris and his brother started to increase the manufacturing of them very speedily. It would not be far too long before they formally went into business as the Smith Ryan Boat Company. John “Baldy” Ryan was the financier that made this achievable.

It was with the development of the Smith Ryan Boat Company that the runabout we identify as a Vintage Wooden Chris Craft Boat would evolve. Speed grew to become the focus of these boat models. In 1910, they debuted their boats around New york at numerous boat shows. These boats were fast and gorgeous. It is said that they regularly defeated a lot more sophisticated European boats in each and every race.

It wasn’t till the 1920’s, after Ryan dropped from the partnership and the company became Chris Smith and Sons Boat Company, that Chris-Craft boats was brought to the masses. Most likely with inspiration from Henry Ford (who was an owner of a Chris-Craft), Chris Smith started constructing boats assembly line style, significantly decreasing the production expense and time, hence which made them considerably more affordable to the growing middle class. Prior to this, they were handmade wood boats. However, the great Depression was looming large just around the corner. During these lean years, Chris Smith and Sons introduced a line of low-end wood powerboats, in order to remain solvent, and it worked.

In 1930, Chris Smith and Sons Boat Company became Chris-Craft with Jay Smith, Chris’s son at the helm. He would keep this position for nearly 31 years. The organization would continue to thrive being a non-public company through the 1930’s. In 1939 Chris Smith passes.

During WWII, Chris-Craft, like numerous industries in the United States, supported the war effort. They were commissioned by the US Navy to build patrol boats, utility launches and rescue vessels. During this time, personal boat manufacturing was limited, but nonetheless continued.

Straight out of the war efforts, business boomed in the early 1950’s for Chris-Craft. They introduced virtually 160 various models for all ranges of buyers. They could boast that a number of the wealthiest folks in the United States owned a wood Chris-Craft. Employing such elements as mahogany, teak and brass, even their low-end boats were regarded as top quality.

By 1955 Chris-Craft introduced its first fiberglass boat. But unfortunately, this was the beginning of the end to the wood Chris-Craft boat. In 1971 Chris-Craft manufactured their final wood boat.

Though Chris-Craft has been purchased and sold a number of times since 1960, each and every owner has seen fit to continue the famous quality and elegance of Chris-Craft boats. You can even now own a Chris-Craft today and know that you are sailing in a class of your own with a Chris-Craft. Contact Hagadone, a premier Wooden Chris Craft Boat, offering Chris Craft boats as well as restoration and wooden boat repair services.

For more information about owning a Chris-Craft boat, contact our Sales Center @ 866.525.3232 or via email You can also visit our website @ www(dot)hagadonemarine(dot)com. For restoration services contact the Resort Boat Shop @ 208-667-5099 or via email

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